There is an old saying that over a period of time history repeats itself. In the 1950’s, along with many local birdwatchers, I rushed to a garden in Ipswich because an extremely rare bird had turned up. We were staggered by the beauty of this migrant bird but little did we realise that this species would become part of our gardens’ natural history. That bird? A collared dove! So common are these birds nowadays that we rarely give them a second glance. History, in fact, does repeat itself. Every day now I have another migrant bird (well, three actually) visiting my garden. I am awakened by their raucous calls and whistles – ring-necked parakeets, now the norm in many parts of our capital city but, as yet, uncommon in the Ipswich area. How long before they become part of our landscape as have collared doves? Jeremy Clarkson writes a column in the Sunday Times every week. Yes, Clarkson who used to do idiotic things with cars on television but is now a ‘farmer’! He writes about how we turn up our noses about invasive species and, in particular, ring-necked parakeets. Pretty harmless he thinks regarding them as “parrots who flutter in a blizzard of colour around his London flat”. I suggest that Jeremy may have a lot to learn about invasive species and, who knows, farming as well. I wonder, however, if he will still see the beauty in a thousand or so pearl-grey ‘woodies’ descending upon his oilseed rape? However, his ‘jottings’ do amuse me greatly.
On a warm day in June is there a greater pleasure than a bike ride on a country road with little traffic and lots of wildlife? On the way to my studio, I hear yellowhammers in song every two to three hundred yards, lesser white-throats diving deeper into the hedgerows, the Culpho song thrush blasting out its song, young buzzards calling out for more food, excited green woodpeckers yelping at my slow progress and the second clutch of starlings clinging to the overhead wires along Stoney Road. Oh, and I must include the house sparrows along that same road also with their chattering second brood. The verges so far remain uncut so my legs brush against blood-red poppies, mauve mallow, delicate blue scabious, yarrow, hog-weed and this year’s speciality dog-roses (and I must not forget stinging nettles). Although most fields are green with waving barley or wheat, it seems that skylarks are still able to nest in the ‘tramlines’ left by heavy farm machinery. I wonder how many of you have stopped to listen to a skylark singing high above?
The blue and great tits have long left my garden with their young, so too a pair of robins. Not so the crows, magpies, jackdaws and of course ring-necked parakeets. A young fox, from a family nurtured by people round the corner, successfully caught a magpie on my lawn but I don’t really want either species. As I grow vegetables, I should have known better than to leave my cabbage plants unprotected as wood pigeons are now doing what they do in the fields at Grundisburgh to young oil-seed rape. However, on a warm day, I counted 27 species of birds seen in or over my garden and that does not include Air Force One on its way to Stansted!
A new species for Suffolk was recorded at Minsmere last week. This bird was a Cretzschmar’s bunting. Now, I have seen these buntings in Turkey and even there I had difficulty in distinguishing this species from its cousin, the Ortolan bunting. The females are even more difficult to tell apart – Cretzchsmar’s has a white eye ring, Ortolan a pale yellow one. Gone are the days when we used to sketch our findings but the lucky person who saw this bird at Minsmere had photographed it and, despite it being a female, identification was made possible.